Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Friday, 7 November 2008

Saudi hunger strike for prisoners

Mohammad al-Qahtani
Protest organiser Mohammad al-Qahtani, at home on hunger strike

Saudi Arabian activists are on a two-day hunger strike to protest against the detention without charge of hundreds of Saudi citizens.

They are hoping to draw attention to "flagrant human-rights violations" of prisoners held without trial, especially 11 political reformists.

Seventy-two people are taking part in the strike.

Political parties, protests and unauthorised public gatherings are banned in the kingdom.

One of the strike organisers, Mohammad al-Qahtani, said they were trying to avoid confrontation with the security forces by holding the protest in their homes.


"We used all legal means to make our voice heard but we were ignored, that's why we don't fear any government retribution," Mr Qahtani said.

Practices in Saudi Arabia do not fit with either international conventions or local laws
Fahd al-Oraini
Nine political activists remain in solitary confinement after being arrested in February 2007 in Jeddah as they were preparing to launch a reformist movement.

They were widely accused of financing terrorism in Iraq, but their supporters believe they were arrested for speaking out for political reform.

Two other political activists were detained later, one in December 2007 and the other in May 2008.

Another strike organiser, Fahd al-Oraini, said they were all being denied justice.

"There are practices in Saudi Arabia that do not fit with either international conventions or local laws.

"The law says you can hold someone for six months. After that you have to present them for trial or release them."

While some social and economic reforms have been introduced since King Abdullah came to power in 2005, rights groups are disappointed at the lack of political change.

The protest is supported by others wanting change in the kingdom.

Riyadh-based blogger Ahmed al-Omran says he is on hunger strike: "My little personal gesture to the detainees... I don't know what it would mean to them, but it certainly means something to me."

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